As one who has struggled with overfunctioning, caretaking, perfectionism, and workaholism, I still remember a truth that blew me out of the water years ago. God is glorified when we come to Him with our need. Our need of Him reflects the reality that He alone is worthy and able to meet our needs. And He sure wants to.
Feeling Guilt When I Need
Yet, I’ve wrestled the last few years over why I feel guilty when I receive help. If I’m feeling guilty, I must be judging myself somehow for having need. I’ve made progress through counseling, EMDR, and neurocycling (rewiring our brain and changing the trajectory of our thoughts and behavior by processing hurt, trauma, and different aspects of life deeply. From Dr. Carolynn Leaf’s book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess: 5 Simple Scientifically Proven Steps to Reduce Anxiety, Stress, and Toxic Thinking and her app Neurocycle).
The Lie and the Truth
I know God is all powerful, and I know He wants us to bring Him our need. He is real and I have complete access to His presence. Yet I also believed in my heart that God expected me to just to figure out, solve, and take care of most things on my own. I carried around a lot of heaviness from this. I was never enough for the things I was not meant to carry. All my research and emotional work only scratched the surface until I dealt with this lie that I lived by. The most helpful thing God has led me to do is to repent of this lie and align with the truth that God delights to take our hurt and carry our burdens and He longs for us to rest in the reality that He has it figured out and is the only One who can ultimately ensure things are carried out. Our need glorifies Him, because we are coming to Him for what He alone can do. We are coming to the only One who can. That honor’s the Father’s heart, just as we are honored when our kids come to us to talk through hurt, seek advice, or get the kind of help that parents are made for.
I make it awkward for others who want to help me when I won’t receive help, apologize for needing it, or come across as not needing what I obviously (to others) am desperate for. I’m sure I did this last week. Midday at our homeschool co-op I just couldn’t stop crying. I had things outside of my control and outside of co-op weighing so heavily in the middle of the day that I was a mess.
My director and another tutor were incredibly gracious and offered me help. Help I needed. Help I repeatedly turned down, not knowing what to do and thinking perhaps it was best just to push through. After all, that is what I normally would have done in the past. Yet, they continued to offer the help I needed, and it was the best thing for me. I’m so glad that they kept offering and that I finally received it. I wish I had made it less awkward by just receiving graciously and more quickly.
Wrestling with Receiving with Brené Brown
Yesterday, I was reading the chapter “Easy Mark” in Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong. She realized that the reason she couldn’t look the homeless people in the eye that she helped was that she was afraid of her own need. For her, helping had become part of her identity and the value she felt she brought to a relationship.
If I couldn’t help, or, God forbid, if I had to ask for help, what value did I bring?Brené Brown, Rising Strong, p. 180
I definitely have resonated with that most of my life. Some key things she learned from wrestling with her own struggle around this topic were:
* When you judge yourself for needing help, you judge those you are helping. When you attach value to giving help, you attach value to needing help.
* The danger of tying your self-worth to being a helper is feeling shame when you have to ask for help.
* Offering help is courageous and compassionate, but so is asking for help.Brené Brown, Rising Strong, p. 180
Asking For Help Fosters Trust
Brené regularly asks leaders through her Daring Way leadership groups to identify a few behaviors that allow them to trust others. Here are two of the top answers that surprised and comforted me:
- “I trust people who will ask for help or support”
- “If someone asks me for help, I’m more likely to trust them, because they’re willing to be vulnerable and honest with me” (Brené Brown, Rising Strong, p. 181).
I find great rest in the groups of friends that I have where I can share my messy need and have others share theirs with me. We have trust, deep friendship, true connection, and the kind of support I’ve desperately needed through all I’ve gone through in the last few years. Here is how Brené defines connection (p.182)
I define connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, nd valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
She goes on to say,
In a culture of scarcity and perfectionism, asking for help can be shaming if we’re not raised to understand how seeking help is human and foundational to connection.
As I look back over all of those who helped me through the last year and a half, I am deeply grateful. I’m grateful for those who were able to see the pain and hurt and mess and not shy away, but step in and stay in. For some that might have been brining one meal and then asking every now and then how I was doing with my brain injury and everything else. For others it meant taking my kids once a week so I could do the physical therapy and neurological rest I needed. Brené said,
Not one of us gets through life without expressing desperate, messy, and uncivilized need.
That was me this last week. In my desperate, messy, uncivilized need. I am truly thankful for each friend who has helped me through. And I’m thankful to all who have been with me in need throughout my life and through doing so, taught me more about God and about what it means to be human.
My Prayer for You
My prayer is for you to experience true connection with God and with true friends who can give and receive help and that you can thrive without the guilt of judging your own need.
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